Why Was Christ Baptized?
SHOULD WE FOLLOW HIM IN BAPTISM?
By CORNELIUS R. STAM
Look within or about you and you will see
enough failure and sin to break your heart.
The Evangelist Luke paints a very dis-
appointing picture of man before he presents
Christ, the perfect Man.
The angel brings goods news to Zacharias
and he will not believe it. A host of angels ac-
claim the Savior's birth, but He is hardly recog-
nized. His own mother travels a whole day's
journey before she realizes that He is not in
the company, And then this neglectful mother
rebukes Him for tarrying at Jerusalem! John
the Baptist tries in vain to bring the people of
Israel to repentance. They are given the Law and
they break it. They are offered repentance and
they refuse it. Yes, they are offered repentance —
"But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by John for Herodias
his brother Philip'* wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done;
Added yet this above all, that HE SHUT UP JOHN IN PRISON."
An immoral wretch occupies the throne
while the great reformer is shut up in jail!
This is the picture that Luke paints of man
before he introduces "the Man Christ Jesus."
After painting this picture Luke takes us
back again into the ministry of John the Bap-
tist. Among the throng who have come to be
baptized we find "Jesus also." (Luke 3:21).
OUR LORD'S BAPTISM
Jut what is
"THEN COM ETTR JESUS FROM CAULEE TO JORDAN UNTO
JOHN, TO BE BAPTIZED OF HIM." (Matt. 3:13).
Why should He be baptized? He had no
need to repent. He had no sins to confess. The
Jews had expected Messiah to baptize, not to be
baptized. They had said to John, "Why baptizest
thou then, if thou be not that Christ
• # • •
Even John was surprised and greatly em-
barrassed at our Lord's coming to be baptized.
"BUT JOHN FORBAD HIM, SAYING, I HAVE NEED TO BE
BAPTIZED OF THEE. AND COMEST THOU TO ME?" (Mitt. 3:
'Jesus alspt}' Striking phrase!
)hn's baptism was clearly a CONFESSION
OP SIN. It 4as "piE BAPTISM OF REPENT-
ANCE." (Luke 3:3^. Sinners came to John "and
were baptized of him in Jordan, CONFESSING
THEIR SINSS (Matt. 3:6>.
A GREATER BAPTISM
But our Lord's water baptism was only a
shadow of the real thing. After this was over
And the Father Himself broke through the
heavens to let all know that
"THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL
PLEASED." (Matt 3:17).
But notice how our Lord answered John.
Notice it, all who ask why Christ was baptized:
"AND JESUS ANSWERING SAID UNTO HIM, SUFFER IT
TO BE SO NOW: FOR THUS IT BECOMETH US TO FULFIL ALL
RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Matt 3:15).
This does not, of course, mean that his
baptism with water alone would fulfil all
righteousness, but simply that this was one of
the things necessary to the fulfilling of all
Since our Lord had no sins to confess there
can only be one reason why He submitted to
"the baptism of repentance." He was taking the
place of others. To. "fulfil all righteousness,"
to settle the account between God and man,
He must be "numbered with the transgressors"
and bear the blame and disgrace for their sins.
What thoughts must have filled the minds
of the people as they saw Him come with others
to be baptized by John! How they must have
said to each other, "You see,. He is not so' holy
as some people seem to think! Here He comes,
just like the rest! John's words have been
troubling His conscience!"
"BUT I HAVE A BAPTISM TO BE BAPTIZED WITH, AND
HOW AM I STRAITENED TILL IT BE ACCOMPLISHED!"
He spoke, of course, of His baptism of fire
and blood and death on the cross.
See Him as He stands before Pilate:
"AS A SHEEP BEFORE HER SHEARERS IS DUMB, SO HE
OPENETH NOT HIS MOUTH." (Isa. 53:7).
"And when He was accused of the chief priests and elders,
He answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto Him, HEAREST THOU
NOT HOW MANY THINGS THEY WITNESS AGAINST THEE?
"AND HE ANSWERED HIM TO NEVER A WORD, insomuch
that the governor marvelled greatly." (Matt. 27:12-14).
But why did He not answer? He was not
guilty of all those crimes. He could have given
a thousand answers and exposed the secret sins
of His accusers at the same time.
Ah, He was willingly bearing the blame
for their sins— and for yours and mine. Standing
there, speechless and condemned in our stead
He carried His purpose through.
He had identified Himself with man to save
him. He was numbered with the transgressors
in the confession of sin; now He was to be num-
bered with them in the payment of its penalty,
dying on a cross between two thieves, to "put
away sin by sacrifice of Himself."
This was the great baptism which wrung
from His lips such expressions as, "How am
I straitened until it be accomplished!" "Now
is my soul troubled." "Oh, my Father, if it be
possible, let this cup pass from me." This was
the baptism which made Him "exceedingly sor-
rowful," and caused Him to "sweat, as it were,
great drops of blood.'*
The death of the cross! It was the culmi-
nation of what He had begun when first "num-
bered with the transgressors." This baptism
was, of course, even more important than the
other to the fulfilling of all righteousness. There
He had confessed sin (taking the blame for
others); here He was to pay for sin — "the sins
of the whole world!" \
Let us ever thank God that our blessed
Lord became "OBEDIENT, UNTO DEATH,
EVEN THE DEATH OP THE CROSS," for
"BY THE OBEDIENCE OP ONE SHALL
MANY BE MADE RIGHTEOUS." (Phil. 2:8,
THE GREATEST BAPTISM
Some years after the crucifixion Paul said,
"I AM CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST . . . WHO LOVED ME
AND CAVE HIMSELF FOR ME." (Gal. 220).
After Saul had been baptized with water
as a repentant Jew, the glorified Lord showed
him the higher truth that by grace, through
faith, Christ's death had been reckoned as his
— indeed, that it was his death that Christ had
died. This is why we find Paul exclaiming that
he is "crucified with Christ" — "baptized into
Water baptism was only a shadow. Christ
was the Substance. And Paul was the chosen
vessel to reveal the glorious truth that believers
are "complete in Him . . . buried with Him in
baptism." (Col. 2:10,12). And this became the
very theme of Paul's message. Henceforth it *
must be known that there is but "ONE BAP-
TISM," (Eph. 4:5), —baptism into the death of
Christ (Rom. 6:3), and so into Christ Himself
(Gal. 3:27) and into His body. (I Cor. 12:13).
Why, then, was Christ baptized?
"To FULFIL all righteousness." "To fulfil—
ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Matt. 3:15).
Did He FULFIL — ALL RIGHTEOUS-
NESS? Indeed He did. This was fully mani-
fested "in due time."
Then what are men doing when they go
through the ordinance of water baptism today?
They are casting reflections upon His
Fundamentalists rightly oppose Modernists
for teaching men to follow the earthly Jesus;
yet thousands of Fundamentalists turn right
around and ask us to follow Him in baptism!
Rom. 6:3 and Gal. 3:27 both teach that
believers are "baptized into Christ." Some Fun-
damentalist teachers, to uphold their water bap-
tism theories, say that "into" should have been
translated "unto" in these passages. Can you
see that this helps to prove their case? Does
water baptism bring us into ANY relationship
to Christ, either "into" or "unto?"
One Fundamentalist preacher says, "The
Lord Jesus Christ Himself was baptized in water.
Remember that." But he might just as truly
have said, "The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was
circumcised. Remember that!" Should we there-
fore be circumcised? If we submitted to that
ordinance today we would most certainly deserve
the stern rebuke which Paul pronounced upon
the Galatian believers. But Paul tells us dis-
tinctly, by the Holy Spirit, that believers have
been both circumcised and baptized WITH
CHRIST. (Read carefully Col. 2:10-12).
The apostle Paul instructs us how we should
follow Christ today, but this is the lesson so
many refuse to learn.
"BE YE FOLLOWERS OF ME, EVEN AS I
AM OF CHRIST." (I Cor. 11:1).
He, unlike the twelve, got his message, not
from the earthly Jesus, but from the glorified
Lord in heaven.
In II Cor. 5:16 he marks a new number in
the program of God:
"WHEREFORE HENCEFORTH KNOW WE NO MAN AFTER
THE FLESH: YEA, THOUGH WE HAVE KNOWN CHRIST AFTER
THE FLESH, YET NOW HENCEFORTH KNOW WE HIM NO
Christ on earth took His place with sinners,
yea, even the place of sinners. He fulfilled all
God's righteousness for failing, sinful man, and
God righteously raised Him from the dead and
set Him at His own right hand. The full accom-
plishments of His finished work were made
known in due time through Paul, the chief of
sinners saved by grace.
Now we know Christ, not as the Man of
Galilee, but as the risen, exalted Son of God,
through Whom and in Whom we may obtain a
perfect standing before God.
"FOR COD HATH MADE HIM TO BE SIN FOR US, WHO
KNEW NO SIN, THAT WE MIGHT BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUS-
NESS OF GOD IN HIM." (II Cor. 5:21).
When our blessed Lord came up out of the
water "there came a voice from heaven, saying,
THOU ART MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM
I AM WELL PLEASED/' (Mark 1:11).
The question now is, do you stand before
God in Christ? If so, then, most assuredly, God is
well pleased with you and you are "ACCEPTED
IN THE BELOVED ONE." (Eph. 1:6).
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